Ireland came into 2018 ICC Women’s World Twenty20 with one big goal — to finish in the top 8 and not have to play the qualifiers for the next edition of the tournament. Placed in Group B with Australia, India, New Zealand, and Pakistan, they were understandably looking at their match against seventh-ranked Pakistan as a potential win. After losing to them by 38 runs on Tuesday, Ireland’s hopes of earning direct qualification are slim.
“Pakistan was a target for us,” Laura Delaney, Ireland captain said in the post-match press conference. “We definitely thought we could get a win over them...Bitterly disappointed. To come 40 runs short after the confidence and self-belief we had going into today's game is very disappointing.”
Ireland are the only amateur team playing in the World T20 at the moment, so their inability to compete against the top teams consistently is understandable. Their loss to Pakistan had Delany in tears.
When India face Ireland in their Group B match at Providence Stadium in Guyana today, it will be the first time the two teams face off in a T20I. They have played 12 ODIs with India holding a 12-0 win record, but not once met in a T20I.
Considering Ireland’s struggles, their ranking and India’s wonderful form through the early part of the tournament, Harmanpreet Kaur’s team will be expected to register an easy win — one that will mean they book a place in the semi-finals of the World T20 for the first time since 2010.
For India, the match presents an opportunity to iron out some chinks that have crept into their armour — better execution of bowling plans and an improvement in the fielding standards will be two of those. India’s batting has got them through the last two matches. Kaur looks in ominous touch, Jemimah Rodrigues is confident, and Mithali Raj has stamped her class on yet another world tournament.
India will also be hoping Smriti Mandhana can find some runs. The left-hand opener has had a disappointing return to T20I cricket after her incredible run in the Women’s Super League in England. The slow surface in Guyana has not aided her strokeplay. In both matches of this tournament, she has been caught at deep square leg while playing the pull — once against pace and once against spin. Opposition teams have exploited her inability to keep the shot down, setting her up for it with a perfectly placed fielder. Mandhana will be looking to put her run of low scores behind and try and set herself up nicely for the business end of the tournament.
Another major worry for India has been their fielding. They dropped five catches against Pakistan, and their energy levels fell drastically after the second chance went down. They allowed Bismah Maroof and Nida Dar to get away in the middle — something they can ill afford to do against better teams.
It will be interesting to see whether India decide to change their playing XI for this game. Arundhati Reddy, the fast bowler, has blown hot and cold in the two matches she has played. The 21-year old had a difficult time against the powerful New Zealand line-up in the opening game but came back with a spirited spell against Pakistan in the following match. If Pooja Vastrakar is fully fit, she could slot into the line-up if India want to give her some game time. Anuja Patil who has also, surprisingly, spent the last couple of games on the bench, will be hoping to get a look-in. However, having observed the way Ramesh Powar works, India are not likely to change a winning combination.
On Tuesday, Ireland struggled against Pakistan’s spin — not so much against balls that turned extravagantly, but those aimed at the stumps. The Irish were found desperately swinging against the line more often than not — something they will have to work on. Nashra Sandhu, the left-arm spinner had the Irish in a tangle. She finished with incredible figures of two for eight in four overs. Only Clare Shillington and Isobel Joyce were able to show some resistance — the former choosing to hit straight down the ground, while the latter used the sweep to great effect.
Overall, India look far too powerful for Ireland. They boast of a batting group full of attacking players, and a spin quartet that has so far proven hard to get away. It will be a mountain to climb for Delany’s side, but they will be hoping to put in an improved performance after two disappointing games. If anything, Ireland have shown how passionate they are about the game and how dearly they want to compete with the best. The likes of Shillington, Kim Garth, Joyce, Lucy O’Rielly, and Gaby Lewis have shown glimpses of what Ireland are truly capable of — they must now learn to string those performances together consistently.
India will be determined to find that perfect game heading into the semi-finals. They are well aware they there is much that they need to improve on to challenge the very best. While the team will be confident of a good show on Thursday, as Kaur mentioned, no team can be taken lightly, and Ireland will present a challenge of their own.
India: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Smriti Mandhana, Mithali Raj, Jemimah Rodrigues, Veda Krishnamurthy, Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Poonam Yadav, Radha Yadav, Anuja Patil, Ekta Bisht, D Hemalatha, Mansi Joshi, Pooja Vastrakar, Arundhati Reddy
Ireland: Laura Delaney (c), Kim Garth, Cecelia Joyce, Isobel Joyce, Shauna Kavanagh, Amy Kenealy, Gaby Lewis, Lara Maritz, Ciara Metcalfe, Lucy O’Reilly, Celeste Raack, Eimear Richardson, Clare Shillington, Rebecca Stokell, Mary Waldron